Glenmuick, Tullich and Glengairn


A New History of Aberdeenshire, Alexander Smith (Ed), 1875

Gleann Muic, the proper Gaelic spelling, means "The glen of the wild sow" where, it is said, an oak forest skirted both sides of the glen in which wild swine abounded.

Tullich, is from the Gaelic Tulach, which signifies " a small knoll," on which stands the burying ground of Tullich, surrounding the ruins of the church.

Glengairn is derived from the Gaelic Gleaun-garbh-amhain, signifying "The glen of the rough running water" which is very applicable to the rocky channel of the water of Gairn, which intersects this division of the parish.

While there are many names of places in these parishes of unknown derivation, others are certainly of Gaelic or Celtic origin; thus, Montkeen, Monadh-Ceann, is "the head of the hill;" Cairntaggart, Carn an-t-sagairt, "the priest's mountain;" the Dubh-loch is "the black loch;" Loch-buidhe is "the yellow loch;" the Glas-allt is "the grey stream;" Allt-na-guithasaich (contracted guisaich, or guithas), "the stream of the fir tree;" Conach-creag-hill, "the craigs of the smooth hill;" Meall-gorm, "the blue hill;" and the Coyle of Meall-dubh, that is "the back of the black hill." In the valley of the Dee we have the Cambus o' May, which is from the Gaelic Cam-uisge meaning "the curved water; " Tomnakeist is from the Gaelic Tom-na-ciste, and signifies "the knoll of the stone coffin.;" East of the Poulach burn there is Creag-Mullach, i.e., "the summit of the Craig;" Ballater is from Baile-na-leitir, which means "the town near the slope of the hill;" Craig-an-darrach is derived from Creag-an-daraich, which means "the rock of the oakwood." In the top of the Pass of Ballater there is Balloch-an, which means "the pass at the head of the stream " and Balmeanach, which is derived from Bal-mheadh-onach which signifies "the town of the middle height." In Glenmuick there is Knockandhu, meaning "the dark knoll ." All-tanruie, or Allt-ruadh, meaning "the red stream;" Aucholzie, Auch-coille, is "the wooded field;" and Tombreck is from Tom-breac, which signifies "the speckled knoll." In Glengairn there is Bealach-reidh, "the smooth pass ;" Candacraig, "the town on the head of the Craig ;" Torbeg, or Torr-beag, means "the small conical hill;" and Rieanloan (inn), or Ruighe-an-loinn, which means "the well conditioned shealing;" the mountain of Morven, in Gaelic Mor-earan, i.e., "the great hill of the division," which is different from "Mor Ven," as used in the Poems of Ossian, where it is derived from the Gaelic words "Mor Bheann," signifying "of the great mountains," and is more applicable to the whole Highlands of Scotland or what a Highland man would say, "Duthaich-nam-mor-bheann, the country of high hills."

These parishes are bounded on the west by the united parishes of Crathie and Braemar; on the north by the parishes of Strathdon and Logie-Coldstone, on the east by part of Logie-Coldstone and the united parishes of Aboyne and Glentanar; and on the south by the parishes of Lochlee and Clova in Forfarshire.

The greatest length of the united parishes, in a direct line from the ridge of the mountain of Lair Aldararie, bounding with Lochlee and Clova, to the top of the Scroulach bordering with Strathdon, is 18½ miles; and the greatest breadth, in a direct line along the valley of the Dee, from the influx of the water of Dinnet, to within about one mile of the church of Crathie, is 12¼ miles. The whole area of the united parishes is computed to be 88,798½ acres, of which about 44,800 acres lie south of the Dee.

The river Dee bounds and intersects the parishes from west to east, and divides them into two nearly equal parts. The ridge of mountains between Glenmuick and the bounding glen of the Girnock, rises from the Dee, west of Ballater, by the wooded hills of Dalliefour and the Knock, which are about 1,000 feet above sea level, and runs by Creag Phiobaidh, 1,462 feet; the Coyle, 1,956 feet, to the west boundmg mountains of Meallgorm and the Conach-Craig-hill, 2,827 feet, and to the eastern ridge of Loch-na-gar, which is 3,768 feet above sea level, and the highest mountain in Glenmuick. The eastern ridge of mountains rise from the Dee by the Pananich Hill, which is 1,896 feet, Knockie Branar, 1,986 feet, Cairn Leughan, 2,953 feet, to Druim-na-wheillie, which is 2,185 feet. The lower-most point on the Dee, at the influx of the water of Dinnet, is 460 feet above sea level, and the highest cultivated land on the eastern division of Glenmuick was at the Etnachs (1,260 feet) in the top of Glentanar. The bounding ridge on the Grampians run from Mont Keen, 3,077 feet, by the Hare Cairn 2,203 feet, Fasheilach 2,362 feet, the Black-hill of Mark 2,497 feet, Lair Aldarari 2,726 feet, being the most southerly point of Glenmuick. Thence westwards by the Doghillock 2,400 feet, and the Broad Cairn 3,268 feet, to the top of Cairn-bannoch 3,314 feet, and Cairntaggart 3,430 feet, on the confines of Braemar. The Dubh Loch lies between Cairn-bannoch and the tops of Loch-na-gar, at an elevation of 2,091 feet above sea level; Lochmuick is 1,310 feet; Alit-na-guisach Lodge is about 1,400 feet; and the Linn of Muick (bottom of fall) is 1,145 feet. The Pannanich Mineral Wells are about 800 feet above sea level, and the bridge of Dinnet, on the Aboyne boundary of the parish, is 505 feet. The bridge over the Dee at Ballater is 663 feet, the Railway Station is 668 feet, the top of Craig-an-darrach is 1,324 feet, the bridge over the water of Gairn is 743 feet, and the highest point in the parishes on the Dee is about 850 feet. The highest point of the Geallig, or white mountains, between the Dee and the upper waters of the Gairn, is 2,439 feet, the bridge at Gairn-shiel is 1,110, and the highest cultivated land in Glengairn is 1,470 feet above sea level. The bridge of Glenfenzie, on the Strathdon road, is 1,550 feet, the Glasc-hills ridge, bounding with Strathdon, is 1,738 feet, the Scroulach is 2,590 feet, the blue Cairn-of-Morven, on the confines of Strathdon and Logie-Coldstone, is 2,954 feet, and the Vat on Culblean is 880 feet.

The general appearance of the face of the country is mountainous. On entering the parish from the east, by the muir of Dinnet, which is an extensive dreary flat of dark brown heath, studded by a few bushes of natural birch, some green fields appear, bordered on the north by Loch Cannor, and on the south by the Dee, while to the west rise the "rocks that o'ershadow Culblean," with the "Morven of Snow " in the distance. On the opposite side of the Dee there is the hill of Bellrory, and the dark-blue mountain of Mont Keen appearing in the distant horizon beyond; while, in the nearer prospect, we have the brown mossy mountain of Knockie-Branar, and the precipitous rocky hills of Pannanich rising, with its associated Crags of Braikley, into the higher ridges of the Grampians, east of the Glen, and of Loch Muick.

From the Cambus o'May, to Ballater, the country lays aside much of its waste and dreary aspect. The valley becomes narrow, and, passing westwards, the Dee, the fluvial monarch of the vale, comes into full view, and comfortable-looking small farms become frequent. The lower hills and rocky glens are covered with wood , both natural grown and planted, and Ballater appears in a broad plain, encompassed by the river on two sides, and the precipitous hill of Craigandarroch on the north. Ballater is a neat clean village. The streets are spacious, and regularly laid out, with a square in the centre, where-in the parish church stands. The houses are all substantially built with reddish granite, and covered with slate. An ample supply of pure water has recently been introduced from the water of Gairn (about two miles west of the village); the principal streets have been seweredl, and the houses are supplied with gas. Ballater contains an excellent inn--the "Farquharson Arms," refreshment-rooms at the railway station, a rural police lock-up, and a military establishment, or barrack, for accommodating a troop of soldiers while Her Majesty is sojourneying at Balmoral, which is eight miles distant. The Pannanich Mineral Wells are situated on the opposite side of the Dee, nearly two miles below the village, in the face of a steep rocky aclivity of the hill, and are well embowered among trees. These wells are said to have been discovered "by an old woman about the year 1760, who had for many years been distressed with scrofulous sores; and who, after being reduced almost to the last stage of weakness and decrepitude, took a fancy (she had no expectation of a cure to crawl upon her crutches every good day to the wells, which were then a bog, remarkable only for their bluish scum on the surface of the water; here she bathed her sores, and laid rags dipped in the water upon them; and, persevering in this course for some time, she was agreeably surprised to see her sores heal up, and to find her health return."

The wells were at this time the property of William Farquharson, Esq. of Monaltrie, who had them cleared out and covered over. He also erected several houses for the accommodation of water drinkers. The water, by chemical analysis, has been found to be not all alike, but all containing carbonates of iron and lime, with other ingredients in small quantities. The water is stimulant and tonic, of a low temperature, but very agreeable to the taste. One of the springs is considered to cure scrofulous and scorbutic complaints; and another for water drinkers, is of a diuretic nature, affording relief in cases of gravel, &c. The present proprietor, James T. Mackenzie, Esq. of Glenmuick, has entirely refitted the Pannanich Wells' establishment in a very attractive style, and has added many improvements to the old lodgings, which had fallen into comparative neglect. The new premises contain ample, accommodation for water drinkers, with plunge and shower baths, and dressing rooms attached for ladies and gentlemen. The new hotel contains a public dining and reading room, with private sitting and bed-rooms for visitors, who may go there in search of health and a pleasant summer residence.

The scenery around Ballater is very grand and imposing. In the back ground there is the richly wooded slopes of the Crags of Ballater House and Craigandarroch; and on the west there is the dark pine-clad hills of the Knock, with Birkhall nestling in the mouth of Glenmuick, which here exhibits a romantic mixture of steep banks and rugged hill slopes, clothed with natural birch interspersed with dark green pine trees, and pleasant looking fields, the whole forming scenery of the most inviting description; while the rock-peaked summits of dark Loch-na-gar appear looking down with majestic dignity on the inferior mountains. Four miles up Glenmuick from the Dee, is the Linn, a thundering cataract of about 35 feet in height, and about six miles higher up the glen, by the Spital of Glenmuick, there is the loch, which lies along the eastern base of Loch-na-gar, with the Queen's Lodge of Allt-na-guisach on its northern slope, and about a mile below the loch. Within half a mile of the top of Loch Muick, and upon the west side of the loch, stands the Glas-allt-shiel, another of Her Majesty's Highland homes, in one of the wildest valleys that ever spread its bosom to the sun. One mile and three fourths higher up the glen is the Dubh Loch, which is connected with Loch Muick by a series of small cascades forming the water of Dhuloch. The stupendous rocky precipices overhanging this loch on the south side, rise to the height of about 1,000 feet, surpassing in grandeur and height those around Loch-na-gar on the north side of the mountain; and by throwing their gloomy shade over it, give to its clear waters a dark sombre appearance, hence the name Dubh Loch, or the black lake. On the north side of the lake, a mountain rill falls into it over a precipice of about 200 feet in height, otherwise, in the scenery there is nothing but utter solitude. Professor Wilson, speaking of Ben-mac-dhui, and Loch Aven (a Banffshire loch), says :--" But never was there a solitude at once so wild, so solemn, so serene, so sweet !" One of the Queen's drives terminates nearly half way up the north side of the Dubh Loch, and the distance from Balmoral to this point, by Abergeldie, Birkhall, and Linn of Muick, Allt-na-guisach and the Glas-allt-shiel, is over 20 miles.

About 3½ miles below Ballater, on the south side of the Dee stands the farm house of Ballaterach, where Byron lived when "he roved a young Highlander, o'er the dark heath," and opposite to it is Culblean, and the burn of the Vat, where, at one point, this small mountain stream encounters a huge rock which time has enabled the water to hollow out to the depth of from 50 to 60 feet. On entering this cauldron by the crevice below, through which the stream passes, the visitor immediately finds himself enclosed in a spacious area--a great well, or vat, with smooth stone sides, from which spring some birch trees of delicate looking growth. The vat is circular, and its diameter at the bottom is about 14 feet, gradually getting wider towards the top. East of Culblean, on the muir of Dinnet, are many cairns, which are said to cover the graves of those who fell in flight after the battle of Culblean, which was fought in 1335, between the adherents of King David Bruce, and the followers of Cummin, Earl of Athole. As before stated, bordering the muir of Dinnet, and on the east of Culblean, there is the sedgy loch of Cannor, containing several small islands. On the largest of these islands there is the remains of a fortress or castle, said to have been built, and occasionally used as a hunting seat by Malcolm Canmore, from whom, it is not improbable, the loch may have got its name. The largest island which is near the eastern margin of the loch, is said to be artificial, and between it and the land, on the north side, an oak plank was fished up in the end of the last century, and upon it the date 1113. The island upon which the fortress stood is distant from the eastern margin of the loch from 200 to 250 feet, and the plank referred to is supposed to have been part of the drawbridge, connecting it with the mainland. The pass of Ballater lies almost in a direct line between the bridge of Tullich and the bridge of Gairn, and in part of the pass behind Craigandarroch, the impending crags " threaten the astonished traveller with immediate destruction." At the west end and a little to the north of the pass, there is to be seen traces of the ruin of the castle of Glengairn, said to have belonged to "the family of Forbes." It is now the property of the Marquis of Huntly. The old majestic ruin of the Knock, or Cnoic, which, in Gaelic, signifies "the knoll," stands to the west of Ballater, upon the property of Abergeldie. Another ruin stands on the right bank of the Dee, on the eastern extremity of the parish, called Dee Castle, upon that division of the parish called Inchmarnock, the property of the Marquis of Huntly.

[A New History of Aberdeenshire, Alexander Smith (Ed), 1875]